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The Ward story from beeginning to End; Carl looks at the development of Ward End in east Birmingham.


THE rise of the Wards to wealth and social standing was a much quieter thing than that of the rumbustious Colmores and Smallbrookes - and yet for all their unobtrusiveness it is they who are remembered today in a district of Birmingham and not their quarrelsome contemporaries.

Like so many families, the Wards first emerged from the mass of the common people into the light of history in the 13th century. A Thomas le Warde of Erdington was noted in 1297, whilst in 1315 a Henry le Warde of Bromwich was mentioned.

Their surname signified that either they or a recent ancestor had been a watchman or guard - perhaps of the castle recalled in the first part of the name Castle Bromwich. This was a motte and bailey fortification from the early 12th century, one of many whereby the Norman conquerors of England kept down the Anglo-Saxon population.

A motte was a raised mound above which was a keep, and in which lived the lord and his family. It was surrounded by a bailey, a courtyard that was protected by palisades, where the lord's retainers gathered. This castle on Pimple Hill dominated the crossing point of the River Tame and the important route on what would become known as Chester Road. The Wards obviously had some close bond with the defensive site for in 1367 Thomas, the son of William la Warde, was recorded as the kinsman and heir of Thomas "of the Castel" of Bromwich.

By this date the Wards were one of the four most important families in Castle Bromwich. The other three were represented by Anselm de Bromwich, a Robert the son of Henry, and William Clodeshale - whose successors went on to become the lords of Saltley and who are remembered in Clodeshale Road.

It seems that the Wards were also leading landowners in Little Bromwich, as revealed by deeds from 1358 and 1370 and it was with this area that they became lastingly associated. So tight indeed was the tie between the family and the district that in 1690/91 a legal document stated that the name of Little Bromwich was now obsolete and had been replaced by that of Ward End.

The Wards also bought property across what is now the rest of modern Birmingham. In 1434 John Warde of Little Bromwich was given as holding land on the road leading from Birmingham to Handsworth, and later in that century a William Warde was mentioned in a rental relating to manorial lands in Bordesley in the late 1400s.

By 1595 the will of another John Warde included houses and lands in New Street, Smethwick, Bordesley, Castle Bromwich and Little Bromwich. This John was listed as of Birmingham and it seems that by now the family had several branches.

In 1616/17 he, along with William Warde of Pattingham in Staffordshire and Jonathan Warde of Castle Bromwich, was involved in a land deal with the wellknown Chattock family of Castle Bromwich.

All of the Wards were given as yeomen. This was a vague term but tended to refer to a man who owned a small landed estate. As such, a yeoman was below the rank of a gentleman but above that of leasehold farmers and smallholders. The aim of many yeomen was to become wealthy enough to own a large landed estate and to grab hold of the title of gentleman. Some of the Wards did so.

In 1817 a William Ward of Islington (now the Five Ways area of Birmingham) was entered as a gentleman in a lease relating to land in the New Town Row locality. His relatives also included in the documents were not so exalted.

John Ward of Birmingham was a brassfounder and Robert Ward of Ward End was a surgeon. Robert also owned the Alum Rock and Treford Hall Estates in Little Bromwich, brought to mind in Alum Rock Road and Treford Lane.

The Wards had acquired them at the end of the 18th century from the last of the Brandwoods, another ancient Little Bromwich family. In 1868 the age-old connection between the Wards and the district ended when William Ward sold up. By now this part of Little Bromwich had become known as Alum the vicinity of the Ward End was recognised as Ward End. This property belonged to in the late 15th and early 16tbut thereafter it was held by families until the mid-19th cit came into the hands of ThHe was a relative of William was Birmingham's first histoAs late as the early 1890s, Was a rural area but urbanisabout to pounce and from thof the 20th century builders up hundreds of good-quality houses along Washwood Hem Rock, whilst d Hall Estate d. o the Wards th centuries y a variety of century when Thomas Hutton.

Hutton who orian.

, Ward End sation was he early years began to put ty terraced eath Road.

Soon a thriving shopping ceas ''the village'' emerged aroand Goose pub and the Beahouse, on the corner of Coleand Stechford Lane.

This rapid population groSaltley and Ward End districaged the council to lay out a more so as east Birmingham claims to consideration by tha new park as "it was largely people in the employ of the on account of the gas works entre known ound the Fox aufort picture eshill Road owth in the cts encoura park - all them had special he council for y occupied by Corporation", in Saltley and Nechells.

The only open space nearby was Nechells Recreation Ground, which was used by permission of the gas committee and was in danger of being reclaimed for extensions of the gasworks.

Accordingly two loans were taken out. The first for PS14,000 allowed the purchase from the Huttons of 43 acres of land bordered by Washwood Heath Road and Sladefield Road; whilst the second for PS7,850 paid for Ward End House and its grounds of 11 acres.

This house survives in Ward End Park. It was indicated in 1759 on Tomlinson's map of Little Bromwich Manor, but probably dates to the late 18th century with additions made in the Victorian period.

Towards the end of the 19th century it was owned by Frederick Gwyther, an electro-plate manufacturer. The family motto was Dum Vivimus Vivamus (while we live, let us live) - and can still be seen on an oak fireplace on the ground floor of the house. Today the building is a thriving community centre, whilst the boating lake is used by the Sea Cadets.

As for Ward End Park, it was opened on 14 May, 1904. It covered 25 acres, with the rest of the acquired land let out for agricultural purposes. In the bad winter of 1908-09, the distress committee asked the council to find work for unemployed workmen and these unfortunate chaps excavated more than 50,000 cubic yards of earth to build a boating pool. Until the 1960s, a trip to Ward End Park with its pool was a favourite day out for kids from Alum Rock, Ashted, Duddeston, Nechells, Saltley and Washwood Heath.

Three years after the opening of Ward End Park, the baths and parks committee reported that its gardeners were not competent to enforce parks' regulations and deal with disorderly persons. Consequently, in 1907, they were relieved of patrol duty and replaced with a system of police patrol. This was arranged with the co-operation of the watch committee for those parks in Birmingham and with that of county councils for those outside the borough boundaries.

There was a disadvantage, however, as the policemen "were not amenable to the authority of the head park-keepers". In 1912, therefore, a change was made. Under provisions of the Consolidation Act of 1883, the council appointed park-constables who, like the railway police, would be sworn constables having the same legal authority as policemen appointed by the watch committee.

There were objections that the new force would exercise a less efficient control than men trained in police discipline and acting under the direction of the chief constable; but the council approved the recommendation by a small majority of 43 to 36.

''This rapid population growth in the Saltley and Ward End districts encouraged the council to lay out a park


Unemployed men excavating and constructing the boating pool at Ward End Park in the winter of 1908/09.

Crowds of people at Ward End Park soon afteer its opening in 1904. Photos from Carl's book,Free Parks for the People (Brewin Books 3012).
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 7, 2013
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